Click on a single image to enlarge.
I wondered: What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Where does the Divine hold up residence in our flesh? How does the embodiment of God manifest in our human form?
I wanted to explore this idea more - the concept of embodying God's Spirit - so I asked these six brave volunteer models to help me answer these questions. They stripped off their makeup and bared their shoulders to minimize distractions.
I'm curious...what do you see? Where is redemption visible? How is restoration on display? What does God's Spirit in human flesh look like to you? Will you share your thoughts with me in the comments?
You may not know this yet because, well, I've been pretty quiet about it - but I'm getting ready to launch a giant Kickstarter campaign for something I'm calling Epiphany: Visio. It's a project based on two of my passions: spirituality (and helping others see the beautiful complexity of themselves) and art (namely, photography). Essentially, through photographing images from my unique eye (professional photographer and recent seminary graduate from the Institute for Spiritual Formation) I want to develop a set of photo-cards (and eventually an app) that people can use to contemplate, meditate, pray through, or use as a daily devotional. I believe that in our Western culture we've lost something of aesthetic appreciation, particualry related to our spirituality. We've allowed our word-centered culture to permeate our souls. By re-engaging our senses with our soul we rediscover what it means to be created in the image of the Divine. We recover and participate in redemption for ourselves, our neighbors, and ultimately our world as we find worth and value in ourselves, given by God, and live out of that life-giving discovery. Patience, renewal, mercy, and compassion are given room to expand and flourish. Our world changes; we change; all by the grace of Jesus.
Out of this belief I've been quietly working away on prepping to launch the campaign to help get this idea from concept to production. Currently I'm in the phase of wrapping up my Kickstarter campaign promo video by working with a talented and amazing videographer, named Andrew, over at Hatling Film. Through his expertise at teasing out the story underneath the passion he's helping me put words to my dreams. It's been quite a revealing and phenomenal experience in and of itself.
Well, this weekend (the weekend inaugurating my 32nd year of life) we shot a series of b-roll for the Kickstarter promo video he's assisting me with. He shot a life-collage I put together representing myself (which included my: converse, mini-Mustang, cameras, journals, books, lavender plant, and more) and took video of me shooting with a couple of portrait clients. It was weird and fun being on the other side of the lens. I felt self-conscious at first, like many photographers and videographers do when being examined by their own trade tools, but then I forgot he was there...and the story began to unfold. I photographed a pregnancy portrait, a few pups, and this adorable family (come on! right?) who's wedding I shot way back in 2008. I still remember Jeff & Emily's wedding like it was yesterday - they incorporated Facebook into their ceremony, had In-N-Out cater their reception, and had a killer choreographed first dance. What's not to love?
So, I'm on my way to launching my first ever Kickstarter campaign, where I ask for your support and funding to help me help others gain new perspectives on themselves and their lives through photographing images and moments and touch the soul. Where I need help is primarily in funding for travel, and equipment maintenance and rentals, to shoot these photographs.
Selfishly, I wish I could do it all on my own. I wish I didn't need to ask for help, but I do - so I'm putting myself out there and asking for what I need: will you help fund my project when it launches in October 2013?
If so, you can let me know now by signing up for the upcoming campaign-launch email and other fun-related news by clicking here.
Thanks loves. I couldn't do it without you.
Want more info? Complete with visual aides: http://christineleesmith.weebly.com/visio-divina-photo-cards-for-spiritual-direction.html
Being in a grad school program that focuses a lot of time and attention on understanding the self (or un-rooting the false self so that the true self can be known and loved), left me at times wondering if all I was doing was sanctified navel gazing. And there certainly is that possibility. It can go too far. However, as I studied Scripture, I found something curious about an oft heard passage of the words of Jesus, from Matthew 22:34-40:
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Those six little words. They make such a difference. In my experience of the Christian church we're pretty good at feeling guilty about not loving others "more" than ourselves (perhaps we've loved Paul more than Jesus?) and working hard to rid our guilt, but we've become pretty clueless on what it means to really love ourselves. I know I can really blow it on Jesus' second commandment.
When I first heard a sermon on the Sabbath - which took nearly 30-years before I did - I was in shock. The pastor was telling me I needed to take care of myself: 1) because I was the beloved of God and was worthy of being taken care of, and 2) because it rightly ordered my heart in reliance on God. It was easy for me at first to brush off his initial point (like, "Yeah, yeah - you have to say that because you're my spouse/parent/friend, etc."), but the second one really got me. I was stumped for excuses.
Did Jesus really want me to love others as I love myself? Man, if that's true I'd be a real task master and pretty judgmental. But what if I were to respect myself as much as I want others to respect me? Then out of my feeling valued and rested I was able to be more respectful as a by-product, rather than as an effort to be the good girl - what could that do for myself and others?
As I've begun attempting to live this way - I won't lie - it hasn't been easy. I've been tempted a lot to sacrifice what I need to do for others (so that I get the love I'm really in need of, which isn't the selfless servitude I can fool myself into thinking it is), namely: time alone to think, create, and journal; time to enjoy movement and dance; space to wander and enjoy beauty; meaningful conversations; and about 9-hours of sleep each night. But when I neglect my needs I'm not as patient, kind, loving, or respectful of others. And when I do honor myself? I seem to have an abundance of those traits, and more. Not only that, but my motives feel freer to be others-focused because my basic needs are met. It reminds me of a beautiful quote by St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
"The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself...Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled;...[they are] full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves."
How can you take care of yourself today?
When are you more like a canal than a reservoir?
What would it look like to give yourself 5-minutes of doing something life giving?
Experiment: if you're unsure of where to begin, try coloring for 15-minutes, or you blow bubbles outside with Jesus for 5-minutes. Then journal about your experience.
Let me know how it goes!